One of my favorite poems, “Hidden,” comes from Naomi Shihab Nye, a gifted writer of Palestinian and American descent.
If you place a fern
under a stone
the next day it will be
as if the stone has
If you tuck the name of a loved one
under your tongue too long
without speaking it
it becomes blood
the little sucked-in breath of air
beneath your words.
No one sees
the fuel that feeds you.
For years, I have carried her work in worn books that travel with me to various places around the world. For me, Shihab Nye captures the strong spirit of moments, experiences, and observations that range in their storytelling—from what it means to be linked with geographically distant people and places to glimpses of resistance in the everyday lived life.
As an educational researcher, I also seek to observe, to learn, to understand, and to share—and because I am an Indigenous person, my work is also about respecting, reclaiming, restoring, reconnecting, and remembering the things that are important to my nunakuna/runakuna, Quechua people, despite the impacts of colonization. As a Quechua person, I am therefore linked with the memory and continuation of colonization and the Indigenous knowledge system that frames my understanding of and my responsibility to the universe. Both are “the fuel that feeds me”—to fight against the silencing, marginalization, and oppression of Indigenous peoples and to remember what we are fighting for and why.
I chose to concentrate on education because my most prominent memories are of learning from my family—the Quechua songs my mother sang to me as a child that taught me to love the little birds and the Andean vicuñas, and the stories of our apus, deities, that taught me to respect the mountains and waters. I also remember the outrage that my family showed when I came home with a textbook outlining in print how the Spanish brought civilization to an otherwise wild land, building great cities, and creating a modern history—“We had a great civilization already—we were architects, engineers, doctors, and astronomers,” definitively proclaimed my uncle. Later, I remember my mother recounting her own schooling experience, saying to me, “When I went to school, I was not Indian.” At that early age, I did not understand why being Indian, which had taught me so much already about the beauty of the world, was viewed with such disdain by others, as something to leave out or behind.
Moreover, what I learned from my family gave me an early sense of what I would later understand theoretically about the role of education as one of the most important processes with the potential to skillfully nurture our Indigenous children or to harm them. The arena of education is critical and rich for researchers, and the work of scholars like K. Tsianina Lomawaima, Teresa McCarty, Angayuqaq Oscar Kawagley, and many others demonstrates the multitude of ways that we can gain great understanding of education from so many vantage points.
Currently, two research projects supported by the School of Social Transformation and School of Transborder Studies highlight this interest: In the first study and in collaboration with schools in the US, Canada, and Peru, we tell the story of how these small schools located within Indigenous communities are creating their own approaches to education and why. The second study is a seed grant that focuses on environmental issues in Peru including climate change, which have local, national, and international economic, political, social, health, and cultural implications. In this evolving context, where our land and natural resources are so critical to our livelihoods and our cultural practices, I am interested in how Quechua peoples locate environmental concerns and consider these concerns in relation to our worldviews.
At this time, I hope that this research will offer some insight into what Indigenous communities face today, but most importantly, demonstrate that we have lives of value and that as my uncle argued, that we were and are many things, including great intellectuals, artists, farmers, and teachers.
Elizabeth Sumida Huaman (Wanka/Quechua) is an assistant professor of Indigenous education in the School of Social Transformation at Arizona State University in Tempe, Arizona. Her research focuses on the link between Indigenous lands, languages, cultural practices, and education. Dr. Sumida Huaman works closely with Indigenous communities and schools on educational development through community-based research initiatives in the U.S., Canada, and Peru. Her current projects include studies of global education and Indigenous higher education and Indigenous schooling in the Americas.
From Dana Keller:
The idea had been brewing in my mind for a while: starting a network of social pedagogy researchers and practitioners. I texted my colleague, Holly Nicolaisen, with the idea and she responded with an enthusiastic, "YES!". Over the next few days, I contacted Daniel Schugurensky, who is one of the founders of the MA in Social and Cultural Pedagogy program at Arizona State University. His response was also very positive...in fact he was in the process of writing an article that concluded with speculation about starting such an association. Serendipity!
So here we are, in the initial stages of creating a community to advocate for and promote the understanding of social pedagogy in North America and throughout the world. It is our hope that this site will be a place where we can share ideas, stay informed, develop connections, and continue to grow the research and practice of social pedagogy. In order for that to happen, we need YOU!
Please share your research, articles, and practices. As the educational programs in the US and UK continue to produce graduates, we want to stay in touch with the many ways in which they are taking social pedagogy out into the world. This blog will be an ideal place to share stories and examples of social pedagogy practices, as well.
We're looking forward to getting to know you, and more importantly, to working with you, as we grow the association. Please don't hesitate to contact us at email@example.com.
This blog space is intended to explore the various ways in which social pedagogy is developing in North America and throughout the world. If you're interested in contributing a 300-500 word blog post, please send your suggestion to firstname.lastname@example.org.